There are many Michigan political pundits who believe that recent ballot proposals, namely Proposal 2, baited the fury of corporate giants and conservative politicians ultimately sending right-to-work bills charging through the legislature this week before ending up on Gov. Rick Snyder’s deck, where he hastily signed them.
For someone who didn’t have RTW on his agenda, critics argue, Snyder sure didn’t waste any time cheerfully supporting the measure that would allow workers to opt out of paying union dues while still claiming the same wages and benefits negotiated by the union contracts governing their workplace.
So let’s take this back a bit. It may seem like a distant memory, but on November 6, we all voted and since an overwhelming majority of us Michiganders are not unionized to begin with, unions lost a multi-million dollar gamble. With all the money they poured into ballot proposal campaigns like Prop. 2, which would have engrained collective bargaining into he state’s constitution it was a big loss for for the union shop.
That’s the thing about gambling. There are no guarantees. If you play big, you lose big. And that’s exactly what happened to organized labor’s bet on a union-supporting electorate.
Analysts are saying it was fail for labor on two fronts: First, it showed how union backed measures are not widely supported by voters and second, it made conservative decision-makers real mad.
But if we take a closer look, the ballot gambit is not the only thing unions have failed. Proponents of the RTW laws argue that it passed because the unions have failed on many fronts in a post- WWII era: They have failed to beef up membership, failed the public through stolid self-service and ultimately will fail themselves in the absence of creative new structures to adapt to the changing world.
Bill Ballenger, editor of Inside Michigan Politics quoted Emerson in his opinion on the matter: "There's an old saying that goes, 'If you strike at a king, you better kill him.'"
Well, if Snyder is a king and Prop. 2 was a strike, it missed. And now unions are up the proverbial creek.
Lansing political consultant Mark Grebner told Metro Times’ Curt Guyette that a "cold war" between the Synder administration and labor ended with the recent union-backed ballot measures aimed directly at the state constitution. Grebner compared the ballot measures to the Japan bombing Peal Harbor:
"When one side starts shooting, the other side doesn't feel constrained to try and keep the peace. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it didn't turn out so good for [unions]."
But there is a silver lining here. For the sake of staying in the game, unions have got some strategizing to do. With the downtrend in organized labor over the past 30 plus years, isn’t a little re-organized labor in order?
As of now, unions have no strategy to reach remote workers like me, someone who essayist Jack Lessenberry describes as “the knowledge worker banging the keyboard in her lonely apartment as an independent contractor.”
Labor has herded catlike workers before and maybe it’s blind optimism but with the right leadership and intellectual power, it will be the force it once was.
Still, the fact will always remain: Win some, lose some, there will always be the political push and pull between labor and business.
As thousands of right-to-work protestors descend on Lansing today, state lawmakers are in the final hours of debates before deciding whether Michigan will be the 24th state to pass the highly controversial legislation.
Right-to-work laws make it illegal to require payment of union dues as a condition of employment, but workers who opt out of paying those dues would still receive all the wages and benefits of the union contract negotiated for their workplace.
It seems unfair, opponents argue, to force middle-income wageworkers to make such a decision; of course a few extra dollars seem more useful –short-term—in pockets than in union coffers. The long-term effect of right-to-work laws on unions is projected to be a crippling one, while critics of right to work laws say there is no evidence that such legislation improves the economic climate of a state.
Proponents of right-to-work laws say optional union membership make a state more welcoming to businesses. Governor Snyder said in an interview last week that Michigan should go the way of Indiana, which passed similar legislation in February. Snyder, who had said that right-to-work was not on his agenda, changed his talking points last week when the bills flew through the house in a matter of days.
“I looked at it as ‘this is becoming divisive’. I’m confident that we’re doing the right thing,” Snyder said of his decision to throw his support behind right-to-work legislation. Snyder said right-to-work would force unions to make membership more “exciting” to entice workers to pay dues instead of making it mandatory for employment.
Snyder said in an interview on WDET's Craig Fahle show that his support for right-to-work is twofold. First:
“It’s about worker choice. It’s about giving the workers a freedom to choose because this whole issue is about worker’s relationship with the union. This has nothing to do with collective bargaining and the relationship between the union and the employer. I think it’s important that people not be forced to pay to belong to an organization if they don’t see any value in that. They should have the ability to choose. I encourage unions to be proactive in presenting great value equations that get people excited to say they should join.”
Second? Better jobs, Snyder says:
“I’ve been tracking carefully what’s been going on in Indiana they passed similar legislation back in February. And if you look at the pipeline with the Indiana economic development corporation there are 90 companies that have identified themselves as having right to work as one of the considerations of coming to Indiana. Literally those companies could end up creating thousands of jobs in the state that otherwise would be there and a lot of those jobs are good jobs.”
Still, opponents of right to work laws say that all economic boosts from right to work are purely speculative citing that there is no proof that right to work packs a jump to economic growth. Snyder said right-to-work must be paired with other business-friendly legislation within states in order to be economically effective.
On the other side of the right-to-work debate stands President Obama, who was very clear at a rally in Redford yesterday that right-to-work was wrong for Michigan:
"These so-called right-to-work laws, they don't have anything to do with economics, they have everything to do with politics. What they're really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money."
Michigan could become a right to work state before the new year. A fierce legal battle is expected in the wake of the passage of the legislation.
If anyone forgot why Public Act 4 (the Emergency Manager Law) was created, yesterday’s DPS ruling should jog their jog your memory.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge John Murphy ruled Tuesday that the DPS School Board has control over academic decisions and Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) Roy Roberts has control of the purse strings. That's until Nov. 6th, when voters get to decide the fate of PA4.
Meanwhile, the ongoing battle between DPS emergency manager Roy Roberts and the Detroit School Board is anything but over. It's a taste of things to come if PA4 is repealed in November.
People can expect lawsuits to fly like rotten tomatoes between the two camps.
According to the Detroit News, Judge Murphy said Tuesday he expects the two groups to battle it out in the courthouse quite often:
“Murphy said if the school board and Roberts can't agree on what is financial and what is academic, he will decide on a case by case basis who has authority.
'The burden of proof is on the plaintiff that his policies fit within Public Act 72,' Murphy said."
Murphy should prepare to see Roberts and the Board frequent his courtroom:
Roberts told The Detroit News:
“If we have a disagreement and I say it's financial and they say it's academics — we are back
before Judge Murphy."
But really, Who wins in a situation like this? Certainly not the kids who need leaderhsip, not lawsuits.
Just when the legal showdown over the Detroit consent agreement was escalating to a special kind of crazy, the show is over: But not before Mayor Dave Bing hired a private lawyer to fight his own city's law department. Really, you can't make this stuff up.
Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette ended what could have been a long and nasty battle between the city and, well, itself. On Wednesday afternoon Collette immediately tossed the lawsuit brought by Detroit’s top lawyer Krystal Crittendon without hesitation.
“This lawsuit will not go forward. I saw it from the very first moment."
Now the City Council can appoint the final members of the financial advisory board that will ultimately take over financial decisions for the city.
But will Krystal Crittendon and the protestors of the consent agreement fade off into the sunset? Not likely. If it wasn't such a serious issue that affected my city, I'd grab a bowl of popcorn and call it entertainment.
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